It’s a sorry state of affairs that I have to lump all of Bella’s friends into one post. Normally even for smaller characters I’d have enough material to write at least a page long character analysis. Unfortunately, with the exception of Jessica, there’s not a lot to work with.
Bella’s “friends” aren’t even relegated to tertiary characters. Bella may as well have had no friends at all, for all the good that they do in the narrative. Bella cares about and pays more attention to her enemies than she does her friends.
I’ll start with the easy and relatively simple ones and move on to the more complex review about Jessica later.
Tyler Crowley is best known for nearly squishing Bella with his van in Twilight. We don’t know much about him, except that he seems to think that pursuing a woman who’s clearly into another man is logical. Also that he thinks vehicular manslaughter sets up the mood perfectly for a relationship.
I know it’s really cruddy of me, but his character usually seems to merge with that of Eric Yorkie in my brain. We know even less about Eric in the books than we know about Tyler. Eric was the first person Bella met, and showed her around school. Normally this would indicate that he’s a somewhat nice guy, but the only reason he’s there is to be a mild irritant to the Edward/Bella relationship. Most of the men in this book are, in fact, so maybe that’s why I find it hard to separate Eric and Tyler in my brain.
Angela Webber is a shy girl who shares some classes with Bella. We get her physical description, are told that she’s quiet and smart like Bella. This is supposed to endear her to us I think, but it’s not until Eclipse that she gets much of a presence in the narrative at all. I am not adverse to Angela really. If she’d been a more developed character I might have even liked her. As it is, all we know about Angela is that she can often be cripplingly shy. Angela sort of feels like Bella part two, without any of the really awful parts of Bella’s character. As it is, we know too little about her, and the books won’t do anything further to develop her besides giving her an arbitrary love interest.
Lauren Mallory is the least necessary character of this whole one-dimensional cast of friends. I didn’t even remember Lauren’s last name when I was starting out to do this character breakdown, that’s how bad it is. Lauren only exists to be a jealous, bitter little harpy who throws barbed insults at Bella. She never grows and she never improves. Snotty is her lone character trait.
This feels like Meyer was borrowing heavily from high-school clichés in films. The main problem with those movies though, is the perception of the main characters. Because most of the characters of these films are the geeks or the underdog of some other sort, we see anyone who is conventionally attractive and popular as an enemy of the hero.
In reality the “popular” people are generally well-liked because they are kind, funny, or likeable in some other fashion. Lauren wouldn’t be popular if she goes around being a shrew to everyone. Bella arguably is one of the popular girls at Forks High school. She’s not an underdog in any sense of the word as far as school goes.
Mike Newton is, like most of the men on this list, only an irritant to the Bella/Edward relationship. He poses no true threat to the dynamic. Bella’s dismissal of him for being “too ordinary” comes off as either shallow or very cruel at times. Mike is no innocent either. He makes a general nuisance of himself by not understanding that no means no. Mike isn’t a perfect character by any means, but he could have been better developed into something serviceable. Instead he’s just there to provide a threat (though not a very credible one) for the love interest be it Edward or Jacob.
And now on to Jessica Stanley. Ah, I really like Jessica. As I’ve mentioned before she reminds me a bit of my sister. Jessica is blunt, very sociable, sarcastic, and likes to have a good time. Being blunt and sarcastic doesn’t make her an intrinsically bad character. In fact, I like myself a good bit of snark on occasion.
Jessica is Bella’s opposite and thus challenges her in ways that Angela can’t. I wish that her character wasn’t put on a bus after New Moon. The interactions between these two would have done Bella’s character so much good. Firstly, it gives her some human connection. The more connections Bella has to her human life, the more difficult it is to write it all off.
Secondly, Jessica could have provided support structure for Bella when her life goes to shit in New Moon. Bella could have gotten back to normal if she learned to rely on a support structure to emotionally ground her, instead of putting all of her dependency issues on Edward or Jacob’s shoulders. If Bella were relying on Charlie, Renee, Jessica, Emily, and Jacob for support in New Moon instead of just Jacob, Bella would have fared much better. But that’s also hinging on the assumption that Bella makes rational choices, so maybe I’m deluding myself into thinking that.
Jessica had the most wasted potential in my opinion. She would have fared very well as a secondary character, in an Alice-like role. I’ll explain in a later post what I would have done with Jessica’s character in the later books, but I’m highly disappointed that Jessica was never fully developed and will slip instead into Lauren-like territory until Breaking Dawn.
I can usually write five to ten pages easily for a single character. Sadly, for this I could only manage three measly pages. I really didn’t have a whole lot to work with. I know they’re not main characters and that can limit how much examination I’m capable of, however I should have been able to say something about all of them.
I learned a lot in my writing classes, and one principle we learned was that every character, in their own minds at least, is the main character. You have to make that character a person. To know their role, and to make them act according to their perception of the world they live in. I can’t take the characters seriously or care about them because the author uses them like tools to further the plot where needed. I can’t care about it because it isn’t real to me. None of the background characters seem remotely real to me besides Jessica.
Sorry. I’ll be back next time with a break down of Bella’s parents, and then a little later Dr. and Mrs. Cullen.